Interactional difficulties as a resource for patient participation in prenatal screening consultations in Hong Kong

Munkyung Agnes KANG, Olga A. ZAYTS

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)

5 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, we examine the interactional means by which non-native English speaking patients in Hong Kong participate in prenatal screening sessions.

Using interactional sociolinguistics as the theoretical framework, we apply the concept of contextualization cues [13], [14] to illustrate that patients indicate their participation in the consultation through verbal and non-verbal modes.

We find that non-native English speaking patients participate: (1) by displaying the interactional difficulties they are encountering and (2) by coordinating their displays of interactional difficulties with the activities of the healthcare provider.

We conclude that the notion of patient participation must be expanded to take into account non-native speaking contexts; in particular, that collaborative displays of knowledge (or lack thereof) must be included as part of the definition of patient participation. While verbal contributions represent an important mode of participation in consultations, patients also participate by contextualizing their lack of understanding, which then can serve as a resource to healthcare providers in pursuing meaningful consultations.

Practice implications
Our analysis illustrates how health care professionals’ awareness of the modes of patient participation and what these modes may signal in non-native consultations can help to establish what the patient knows in the consultation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-44
Number of pages7
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number1
Early online date12 Feb 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes



  • Patient participation
  • Contextualization cues
  • Non-native
  • Prenatal screening
  • Verbal and non-verbal participation

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